Bosses on notice as owners eye Premier promotion
LONDON (AFP) –
Henning Berg, sacked by Blackburn after just 57 days, and Sean O’Driscoll, dismissed by Nottingham Forest just six months into his reign, became the latest managers to discover that patience is an increasingly rare quality among chairmen chasing the dream of a lucrative place in the Premier League.
Owen Coyle, booted out by Bolton in October after a slow start to the season, and Paul Jewell, fired by Ipswich with a relegation battle looming, had already been losers in the Championship’s frantic game of managerial musical chairs.
There have been eight bosses on the move with only half the season gone and more casualties are certain to follow in the new year.
And, as ever in modern day football, money is the root cause of the blood-letting.
The rewards of promotion are estimated at around £90 million, but the cost is even greater for the managers who fall short of that goal.
The prospect of buying a sleeping giant and turning them into a cash cow has convinced a series of investors from across the world to pitch up at second-tier clubs with a wad of cash and promises of instant success.
But when that seductive talk of promotion falters on the pitch, there is no apology from the owners for spreading false hope. Instead it is the managers who are made the scapegoats.
Nowhere is that more apparent than at Blackburn, where Indian owners Venky’s are searching for their third manager of the season following the brutal dismissal of Berg on Thursday.
Berg, who played in the Blackburn team that won the Premier League in 1995, had been appointed as successor to the much-criticised Steve Kean, who avoided the sack despite relegation from the top-flight last season but then quit in September amid suggestions Venky’s were meddling in his team selections.
Although Berg had won only one of his first 10 matches — a 1-0 defeat on Wednesday to Middlesbrough was their fifth loss in six matches — he surely deserved longer to get a troubled club back on an even keel.
In the circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the Norwegian should talk of being “bitterly disappointed” at his treatment.
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand summed up the disbelief felt by the football world when he tweeted: “Henning Berg was given loads of time to implement he’s coaching ideas and get the team playing the way he wanted, 50 something days….NOT!!
“Berg didn’t even get to see a transfer window let alone take part in one?!?”
While O’Driscoll was given a little longer than Berg by Forest’s Kuwaiti owners, he still had plenty of cause for complaint.
Forest were just one point outside the play-off places after a 4-2 win over Leeds on Wednesday, yet even that wasn’t good enough for impatient Kuwaiti chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi, who talked of the need for a manager with Premier League experience after sacking O’Driscoll, widely regarded as one of the most astute managers in the lower divisions.
Danny Collins, one of O’Driscoll’s first signings when he took charge at Forest in July, said: “To hear the news that the gaffer had gone was obviously a surprise, and we’re shocked and disappointed at the same time.”
Forest striker Simon Cox added on Twitter: “So we win 4-2 and the manager gets the sack. Gutted for Sean, pleasure to work under. Wonder who will walk through the door next.”
And as the stakes get even higher in the coming months, there will be plenty more managers and players nervously wondering when the next change will come.
The pressure will be most intense for underachieving Wolves boss Stale Solbakken, Malky Mackay at leaders Cardiff, where the Malaysian owners are determined to secure promotion at all costs, and Nigel Pearson at Leicester, whose Thai owners have been spent big to reach the top-flight.